Senior Likud Lawmaker Calls for Leadership Race: Netanyahu Can’t Form Government

Senior Likud member Gideon Sa'ar has called for a Likud leadership primary, criticizing Benjamin Netanyahu's attack on Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and the claim that the decision to indict the prime minister on corruption charges is "an attempted coup."

"Whoever heads the executive branch can't say that Mendelblit's decision is an attempt of a legal coup. That's not right, it's not responsible," Sa'ar, seen as Netanyahu's main rival in the party, told Channel 12 News on Saturday. Answering questions in the studio during the main evening news program, he added: "It's not fixing the system, it's smashing the system."

Sa'ar, a former interior minister, said that "it's impossible to talk about the attorney general's decision as a coup; we're creating an atmosphere of chaos in the country, and that I oppose."

He noted that Netanyahu has failed to form a government after the two general elections held this year. "He had our full support even when he made a mistake like dissolving the Knesset" after the April election, Sa'ar said.

"I don't think that in a third or fifth election campaign he'll be able to form a government. We're not that far from losing control of the country to our adversaries," he said before calling on Netanyahu to hold a primary ahead of the 21-day deadline for a new government to be formed. "If today we go to a primary and we come to a democratic decision, we can save Likud's rule."

Looking straight into the camera, he said that "I am appealing to the prime minister so that we can end this crisis, which you said was the reason we're being ridiculed around the world. How long will we continue like this as a society?" A third election would directly contradict the country's interests, he added.

Likud responded with a statement saying that "the Likud chairman is Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has given Likud 32 seats via ballots that read  'Likud headed by Netanyahu.'